Building peace in the minds of men and women

Development: the haves and have-nots

We live in a complex, contradictory, chaotic world in which landmarks and systems that worked in the past are breaking down, unpredictable factors are increasingly at work, and the forces of regression and the forces of progress sometimes mingle confusingly. In such a world it is normal that people should lose their bearings and feel afraid.

But surely pessimism is no more justified than optimism. We must make our choice. To profess an informed optimism is to decide that the worst is not bound to happen, that worthwhile things can still be done, and that freedom should be used to do all we can to make sure that good prevails.

Choosing to hope and act implies a certain way of interpreting what is happening in the world, of clearsightedly promoting the possibilities of change, of reacting positively to alarm signals and regarding them not as reasons for despair but as opportunities to break new ground and turn failures into success.

To take one example, what assessment should we make of the mass of data that has accumulated about development, one of the thorny problems that have dominated the second half of this century?

The tragic rise of unemployment, exclusion, poverty and violence has occurred, paradoxically enough, in a world that continues to grow wealthier all the time, in the South as elsewhere. In dozens of developing countries, hundreds of millions of people are living longer and more comfortably, are studying longer and producing more sophisticated goods. Some eastern Asian countries are even becoming the direct competitors of the industrial North.

These two trends are two sides of the same coin. Both are a part of the same modernizing process. The alarming thing is that they are both happening simultaneously. What is becoming intolerable is the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, between those who are involved in modernization and those who are excluded from it (both internationally and within each society). The kind of development that generates inequality as well as growth is now under fire.

This counter-attack has been launched everywhere at the same time and in the same terms on the level at which the real problems exist - the planetary level. It is a radical new departure in human history. A gigantic first step towards change, an irreversible new awareness of the need to impose human demands for fairness and solidarity onto the blind play of market forces.

Development must now be conceived in social terms. This is why a World Summit for Social Development has been convened by the United Nations and is opening in Copenhagen on 6 March and why a Forum of non-governmental organizations being held simultaneously in the same city will be attended by hundreds of organizations representing civil society from almost every country in the world. Unesco has taken an active part in preparing for the Summit and Forum, and this issue of the Unesco Courier is intended to give our readers a preview of the debates and introduce them to some current thinking on development.

Discover this issue. Download the PDF. 


March 1995

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